Is Officiating Getting Worse Each Year?
I’ve been an extremely passionate sports fan for as long as I can remember, and it seems to me officiating across all sports is never as bad as it’s been this year. Take a few examples from this weekend’s games. We’ll start with Syracuse/Tulane:
On Tulane’s first drive, they scored a TD on a long run. Most would suggest poor defense by Syracuse. Hold the phone. After re-watching that play, Syracuse had a defensive end closing in on the running back behind the line of scrimmage, when the offensive tackle literally grabbed him from behind, and tackled him to the ground. This is clearly, inarguably, and blatant holding. It was also right in front of the official in the backfield who was looking right at it. No call. The announcers also didn’t make mention of it. Ridiculous.
Later in the same game, Syracuse has a drive halted when they are called twice for holding. Granted they were holding, but not NEARLY as egregious as the one not called on Tulane. There were also SEVERAL plays in the game where the Tulane offensive lineman would put his arm around the Syracuse defensive lineman’s neck and yank him backwards. Clear holding, no call.
Even later in the game, Syracuse hands the ball to Bailey on a draw, he gets hit in the backfield, but is tackled by a Tulane player pulling Bailey down by his face mask. No call.
Now switch to the Michigan/Northwestern game which I flipped to during commercials of the Syracuse game. I switched just in time to notice something that was appalling. Northwestern had the ball late and was trying to rally for a big comeback. They had a 4th down play which they needed to convert to have a chance. The ball was just past midfield in Michigan territory. The Northwestern QB, Dan Persa, took the snap, and was immediately pressured. A Michigan linebacker had blitzed and came untouched towards Persa. When the linebacker tried to sack Persa, he reached his hands up, grabbed Persa’s facemask, and ripped his helmet completely off his head by the facemask. The rule in college (and pro for that matter) football is that when the player with the ball has his helmet come off, the play is blown dead. The play was allowed to resume for a good 10 seconds, with Persa holding the ball and scrambling around under pressure from Michigan defenders. Ten seconds with a player with no protection on his head. Not only that, but the face mask penalty was not called. The play was EVENTUALLY blown dead, and Michigan got the ball back and ran out the clock. This is simply unacceptable, dangerous, and ridiculous. The worst part of that whole thing is after the play, Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald was screaming at the officials (rightfully so) and ended up getting a 15 yard unsportsman like conduct penalty against his team. So to summarize, the officials blow a call, unnecessarily risk a players health (and potentially life), and the coach gets penalized for being upset about that? Really? Where is the accountability for the officials?
We then move to the NFL and some recent issues that have come up. The NFL seems to have this recent trend of calling something a certain way, then all the officials huddle, and it gets reversed for some unknown reason. Here is a prime example. The Bills and Eagles played this past weekend. In the game, Michael Vick scrambled, and ran for about 15 yards. He was tackled from behind by a Bills player. As Vick went to the ground, his knee hit the turf, then his whole body laid on the ground, then the ball popped out. Clearly he was down before the ball came out. The Bills, rightfully, immediately pounced on the ball and claimed it was there ball. I have no problem with the Bills doing that. They were hustling and playing to the whistle. However, the official right in front of the play IMMEDIATELY rules Vick was down and it was not a fumble. Everyone got up, started to huddle for the next play, and everyone was OK with this. However, the officials decided to all huddle, and with no explanation, changed the ruling to a fumble and awarded the Bills the football. Now the Eagles did challenge the call, which was reversed and the Eagles maintained possession. However, why was the call reversed in the first place, forcing the Eagles to HAVE to challenge it in order for the call that was initially made (and was correct) to be enforced? This seems to happen in TONS of games this year. The main problem with this? In order to overturn a call on the field by challenging it, there has to be “indisputable video evidence.” So, if a wrong call is made in the fashion I just outlined (as in the Bills/Eagles game) but there isn’t a camera angle where it’s clear what happened (or is “indisputable”), it means the call on the field (which is incorrect) stands. That’s ridiculous, and simply unacceptable.
It seems year after year that these types of situations are only getting worse. Here is a link to an article regarding an Eagles/Redskins game from 2010, which shows SEVERAL blatantly horrible calls. One even includes the officials reviewing a spot, saying the play on the field stands, and yet they moved the ball back a full yard with no explanation to the Eagles as to why they moved it when they stated it shouldn’t be moved. It gets even worse than that. The article is supported by video evidence.
Now, there are countless of examples of horrific officiating I could outline but no one has the space to outline them all. The major issue is two-fold. The media ignores the issue. Anytime anyone brings up officiating (fans, players, coaches) they are ostracized as “whiners” and “making excuses” even when what they are saying is correct. Even when bad officiating impacts the outcome of a game. An example is a 2008 game when San Diego was playing Denver. The Chargers forced a Broncos fumble, and the Chargers recovered it. Game should have been over, as San Diego could have run the clock out. But the official, inexplicably, blows his whistle, which blows the play dead. Since the ball hadn’t been recovered when the whistle blew, the ball stayed with Denver. The Broncos score a TD and win the game after that call. The bad call directly changed the outcome of the game. Here’s a link to the what happened. Fast forward to 3:26 in the video to see what happened:
Until we, as sports fans, demand accountability and responsibility from the officials, these types of things will continue to occur. Until we no longer accept the media dismissing these things, these things will continue. I’m sick of hearing “the human element” and “mistakes happen” as excuses for these horrible calls that change games. If we can stick a microphone in the face of an 18 year old college kid who just made a mistake that cost his team a game, and rip him all week for said mistake, why can’t we hold 40, 50 and 60 year old grown men responsible for their mistakes that cost teams games? Why can’t we interview them and ask them what happened? We demand excellence and perfection from our athletes, why can’t we do the same for the officials?